Super Bowl Snaps (cont.)
The Saints have been hurt before by their lack of a short-yardage running game, but never more than on the first-and-goal drive in the second quarter -- when three consecutive running plays failed to produce a touchdown. Mike Bell slipped on 3rd-and-1, and then Pierre Thomas got swarmed under by three Colts (Gary Brackett, Tim Jennings and Clint Session) on 4th-and-1.
I still like Payton's decision to go for the touchdown on that possession, because you're not going to beat the Colts scoring field goals. Not going to happen.
That said, it was very curious to see Payton call three consecutive runs inside the 10. I would have let Brees throw the ball at least once, maybe twice in that goal-line situation.
Have to admit, if you knew New Orleans would hold Indy to just 10 points in the first half, you would have loved its chances to win the game. As disastrous as their first quarter was, the Saints recovered after having the wind knocked out of them by the Colts offense. Impressive response by a first-time Super Bowl team, because many times a start like this ultimately leads to a 37-13 loss.
The most impressive thing about the Saints' win was how they held things together after getting their teeth kicked in in the game's opening 15 minutes.
That was a killer drop by Colts receiver Pierre Garcon on 3rd-and-4 on the Colts' third drive. It forced the first Indy punt of the game and seemed to give the Saints defense some life. It was 10-3 Colts at the time, and you got the feeling the Saints defense was never going to stop Manning and Co.
The one thing the Saints absolutely, positively didn't want to let happen in the first quarter happened: The Colts started the game with a pair of 11-play scoring drives. Indy's offense was clinic-like, slicing up New Orleans for seven gains of at least 11 yards. Besides Garcon's 19-yard touchdown catch, the plays that seemed to work best involved Joseph Addai (runs of 16 and 26 yards). The Saints' run defense has been less than stellar this year, and if you can't stop Indy's running game, Manning is then free to pick teams apart.
The 26-yard gain was Addai's longest run this season, and the Colts' 96-yard touchdown march was their longest drive of the season. It also tied a Super Bowl record for the longest scoring drive, equaling a Bears 96-yard march against the outmatched Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
Bill Polian's game face is legendary within the league. I saw it firsthand once again Sunday night when I crossed paths with the Colts general manager while ducking into the men's room at halftime. Let's just say Polian doesn't bother with pleasantries or salutations in a mid-game setting.
And to think his Colts were up 10-6 at the time.
Don't know what the crowd split was when it comes to Saints versus Colts fans, but I do know this: Saints fans clearly made more noise when the Colts were on offense than Colts fans did when the Saints had the ball. Not that it seemed to matter. Indy was relentless on third downs, when the New Orleans fans were the loudest. Nothing ever perturbs Peyton.
For all the pre-airing hype and controversy, I thought the Tim Tebow commercial was at least less preachy or heavy-handed than I expected. Hard to get real worked up about a spot in which Tebow tackles his mom. Or at least pretends to.
Now, that Brett Favre commercial? Priceless. A 50-year-old Favre wins the 2020 Super Bowl MVP. Funny, funny stuff.
You know it's been a quiet week at the Super Bowl when it takes an analyst for the NFL Network to create the only real distraction. It wasn't exactly on par with the Stanley Wilson, Eugene Robinson and Barrett Robbins sagas, but Warren Sapp gets the Trouble-Before-The-Big-Game award on an emeritus level.
Nice week for the NFL Network, eh? Michael Irvin. Sapp. Better mind your P's and Q's, Steve Mariucci. We're watching you.
If you're wondering, this was the latest Super Bowl ever played calendar-wise. Feb. 7 is the new standard for an NFL season that seems to never really end. The first 35 Super Bowls were all January affairs, but eight of the past nine have been in February. And when the league moves to an 18-game regular-season -- and that's when, not if -- I think we're looking at a Super Bowl played on Presidents' Day weekend.
When I was looking all this up, I was stunned to see that Super Bowl XI (Raiders-Vikings in the Rose Bowl) was played Jan. 9, 1977. Just for comparison sake, this postseason, the first day of the first-round games were played on Jan. 9.
The looming labor situation in the NFL is going to dominate much of the coverage as 2010 continues to unfold, but I think we all know that we're a long way from any sort of new collective bargaining agreement. I'd be shocked if anything significant in the way of progress toward a deal is made before 2011, when there finally will be a real deadline in play.
We know this too: NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith kind of likes jacking up the rhetorical stakes, like he did this week when saying the chances of the owners locking out the players next year was "14'' on a scale of 1-10. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, on the other hand, has yet to dip his toe into the rhetorical waters, and I don't expect he will anytime soon. It's not his style. "I'm not much on rhetoric,'' Goodell said Friday.
Banning the three-point stance in the NFL seems like a common-sense step toward at least lessening the damage done by concussions every season. I imagine one day we'll look back and wonder why no one thought of making that the rather-easy move long ago.
More than anyone else, NFL players trust fellow NFL players. So whenever a coach is hired around the league, his new players get on the phone and check him out even before meeting him. Like Saints linebacker Scott Fujita did when the club hired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams last offseason.
"I knew his rep a little bit,'' Fujita told me last week. "When I heard we hired him, I called (Redskins defensive end) Andre Carter, who was one of my best friends at Cal, and who had played for him in Washington. I said 'What's the scoop on this guy?' Andre said "I'd play for him any day,' and that's all I needed to hear.''
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